Week 14 marks the beginning of most fantasy playoff weeks and more than the usual hand-wringing over lineup decisions. If you’re like me, you try hard to fill your lineup with the highest upside players – regardless of their possible downside. A player with a 10% of a 20 point week is almost always a smarter play than a player with a 90% chance of a 10 point week.
It can be hard to determine the upside of a player playing through or returning from an injury. While forecasting these situations is never foolproof, there are a few things worth considering.
1. Is the injured player returning earlier than his expected timetable?
A player pushing the limits of an expected recovery – e.g. Julio Jones playing just one week after a high ankle sprain – is unlikely to play to his usual effectiveness and a high risk for an in-game setback.
2. Has the player returned to full practice or made it through consecutive practices?
A player who has been cleared to return to full practice or made it through consecutive practices is more ready to return to his pre-injury workload than one who hasn’t practiced or had to rest and rehab rather than return to the practice field the following day.
3. How important is the player to his team’s game plan? Are there ready and capable alternatives at his position?
A player like Julio Jones or DeMarco Murray or Ben Roethlisberger is critical to the success of his team. Without a better option on the depth chart, these players are more likely to be cleared earlier than they should be, but also more likely to see their usual workload in their first week back.
If the answers to these questions are favorable, you can feel a little more comfortable starting an injured player rather than waiting a week and seeing how they respond in their first game back.
Hakeem Nicks continues to deal with soreness in his knee and his missed practice earlier this week was reason for concern. It’s reassuring that Nicks was able to get back to a limited practice and participate in the weekend walkthrough, however. Both are good indicators that he’ll be active and taking the majority of the snaps today. The matchup against the Saints, at home, is strong enough to make him a viable fantasy option despite the increased risk. Fantasy recommendation: If you’ve trusted Nicks as your WR3 over the past month, keep him in your lineup today.
Ben Roethlisberger will return today. Three consecutive days of full practice and the accompanying reports on his arm strength and accuracy suggest he could be effective in his first game back. But there’s sure to be some rust in his first live game action in a month and his accuracy could be further limited by the padding / protection he’ll be wearing. And I’m sure there’s some concern among team observers over how he’ll respond to his first hit. Fantasy recommendation: Wait a week before using Roethlisberger in fantasy lineups unless you’re in a 2 QB league or have no better option.
Jermaine Gresham missed practice on Thursday after suffering a hamstring strain. Local beat writers didn’t paint a very optimistic picture on the injury. But Gresham was able to get back to a limited practice on Friday and the Bengals have listed him probable. That’s not necessarily reassuring, however. Though the Bengals rarely start players who have been listed doubtful, they’re also one of the few teams who have listed a starter probable only to put him on the inactive list after pre-game warmups. Mid-week muscle strains are also prone to aggravation when a player opens it up and plays at full speed for the first time during the game. Fantasy recommendation: Watch the inactive list for confirmation that Gresham will play. If he’s active, consider him a high risk – high reward TE1.
Michael Turner was limited in practice by an elbow injury this week, but Mike Smith expects him to play. There has been lots of speculation this week, however, that Turner’s injury could give the Falcons a reason to use Jacquizz Rodgers more in base offensive sets. Unfortunately, there’s very little from the local media on either the injury or potential game plan adjustments. Fantasy recommendation: Drop Turner down within your RB2 tier, but the Carolina matchup is favorable, especially in non-PPR leagues.
Danny Amendola was able to return to practice this week. He is considered a game-time decision, but I expect – given his history of playing through injury – that he will be active today. His increased practice time this week suggests he’ll be able to tolerate more than the handful of snaps he played in Week 12. However, there’s risk with Amendola today. He’ll need to pivot quickly and effectively to play his usual game, and the foot/heel injury is likely to prevent him from doing so. I expect Amendola to see fewer than his usual targets today and his RAC ability will likely be limited, too. Fantasy recommendation: Consider Amendola no better than a WR3 in PPR leagues.
Categories: Sunday Expectations